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Chapter 17

  • On our right flank commanded by Bagration, at nine o'clock the battle had no_et begun. Not wishing to agree to Dolgorukov's demand to commence the action, and wishing to avert responsibility from himself, Prince Bagration proposed t_olgorukov to send to inquire of the commander in chief. Bagration knew tha_s the distance between the two flanks was more than six miles, even if th_essenger were not killed (which he very likely would be), and found th_ommander in chief (which would be very difficult), he would not be able t_et back before evening.
  • Bagration cast his large, expressionless, sleepy eyes round his suite, and th_oyish face Rostov, breathless with excitement and hope, was the first t_atch his eye. He sent him.
  • "And if I should meet His Majesty before I meet the commander in chief, you_xcellency?" said Rostov, with his hand to his cap.
  • "You can give the message to His Majesty," said Dolgorukov, hurriedl_nterrupting Bagration.
  • On being relieved from picket duty Rostov had managed to get a few hours'
  • sleep before morning and felt cheerful, bold, and resolute, with elasticity o_ovement, faith in his good fortune, and generally in that state of mind whic_akes everything seem possible, pleasant, and easy.
  • All his wishes were being fulfilled that morning: there was to be a genera_ngagement in which he was taking part, more than that, he was orderly to th_ravest general, and still more, he was going with a message to Kutuzov, perhaps even to the sovereign himself. The morning was bright, he had a goo_orse under him, and his heart was full of joy and happiness. On receiving th_rder he gave his horse the rein and galloped along the line. At first he rod_long the line of Bagration's troops, which had not yet advanced into actio_ut were standing motionless; then he came to the region occupied by Uvarov'_avalry and here he noticed a stir and signs of preparation for battle; havin_assed Uvarov's cavalry he clearly heard the sound of cannon and musketr_head of him. The firing grew louder and louder.
  • In the fresh morning air were now heard, not two or three musket shots a_rregular intervals as before, followed by one or two cannon shots, but a rol_f volleys of musketry from the slopes of the hill before Pratzen, interrupte_y such frequent reports of cannon that sometimes several of them were no_eparated from one another but merged into a general roar.
  • He could see puffs of musketry smoke that seemed to chase one another down th_illsides, and clouds of cannon smoke rolling, spreading, and mingling wit_ne another. He could also, by the gleam of bayonets visible through th_moke, make out moving masses of infantry and narrow lines of artillery wit_reen caissons.
  • Rostov stopped his horse for a moment on a hillock to see what was going on, but strain his attention as he would he could not understand or make ou_nything of what was happening: there in the smoke men of some sort wer_oving about, in front and behind moved lines of troops; but why, whither, an_ho they were, it was impossible to make out. These sights and sounds had n_epressing or intimidating effect on him; on the contrary, they stimulated hi_nergy and determination.
  • "Go on! Go on! Give it them!" he mentally exclaimed at these sounds, and agai_roceeded to gallop along the line, penetrating farther and farther into th_egion where the army was already in action.
  • "How it will be there I don't know, but all will be well!" thought Rostov.
  • After passing some Austrian troops he noticed that the next part of the line (the Guards) was already in action.
  • "So much the better! I shall see it close," he thought.
  • He was riding almost along the front line. A handful of men came gallopin_oward him. They were our Uhlans who with disordered ranks were returning fro_he attack. Rostov got out of their way, involuntarily noticed that one o_hem was bleeding, and galloped on.
  • "That is no business of mine," he thought. He had not ridden many hundre_ards after that before he saw to his left, across the whole width of th_ield, an enormous mass of cavalry in brilliant white uniforms, mounted o_lack horses, trotting straight toward him and across his path. Rostov put hi_orse to full gallop to get out of the way of these men, and he would have go_lear had they continued at the same speed, but they kept increasing thei_ace, so that some of the horses were already galloping. Rostov heard the thu_f their hoofs and the jingle of their weapons and saw their horses, thei_igures, and even their faces, more and more distinctly. They were our Hors_uards, advancing to attack the French cavalry that was coming to meet them.
  • The Horse Guards were galloping, but still holding in their horses. Rosto_ould already see their faces and heard the command: "Charge!" shouted by a_fficer who was urging his thoroughbred to full speed. Rostov, fearing to b_rushed or swept into the attack on the French, galloped along the front a_ard as his horse could go, but still was not in time to avoid them.
  • The last of the Horse Guards, a huge pockmarked fellow, frowned angrily o_eeing Rostov before him, with whom he would inevitably collide. Thi_uardsman would certainly have bowled Rostov and his Bedouin over (Rostov fel_imself quite tiny and weak compared to these gigantic men and horses) had i_ot occurred to Rostov to flourish his whip before the eyes of the Guardsman'_orse. The heavy black horse, sixteen hands high, shied, throwing back it_ars; but the pockmarked Guardsman drove his huge spurs in violently, and th_orse, flourishing its tail and extending its neck, galloped on yet faster.
  • Hardly had the Horse Guards passed Rostov before he heard them shout,
  • "Hurrah!" and looking back saw that their foremost ranks were mixed up wit_ome foreign cavalry with red epaulets, probably French. He could see nothin_ore, for immediately afterwards cannon began firing from somewhere and smok_nveloped everything.
  • At that moment, as the Horse Guards, having passed him, disappeared in th_moke, Rostov hesitated whether to gallop after them or to go where he wa_ent. This was the brilliant charge of the Horse Guards that amazed the Frenc_hemselves. Rostov was horrified to hear later that of all that mass of hug_nd handsome men, of all those brilliant, rich youths, officers and cadets, who had galloped past him on their thousand-ruble horses, only eighteen wer_eft after the charge.
  • "Why should I envy them? My chance is not lost, and maybe I shall see th_mperor immediately!" thought Rostov and galloped on.
  • When he came level with the Foot Guards he noticed that about them and aroun_hem cannon balls were flying, of which he was aware not so much because h_eard their sound as because he saw uneasiness on the soldiers' faces an_nnatural warlike solemnity on those of the officers.
  • Passing behind one of the lines of a regiment of Foot Guards he heard a voic_alling him by name.
  • "Rostov!"
  • "What?" he answered, not recognizing Boris.
  • "I say, we've been in the front line! Our regiment attacked!" said Boris wit_he happy smile seen on the faces of young men who have been under fire fo_he first time.
  • Rostov stopped.
  • "Have you?" he said. "Well, how did it go?"
  • "We drove them back!" said Boris with animation, growing talkative. "Can yo_magine it?" and he began describing how the Guards, having taken up thei_osition and seeing troops before them, thought they were Austrians, and al_t once discovered from the cannon balls discharged by those troops that the_ere themselves in the front line and had unexpectedly to go into action.
  • Rostov without hearing Boris to the end spurred his horse.
  • "Where are you off to?" asked Boris.
  • "With a message to His Majesty."
  • "There he is!" said Boris, thinking Rostov had said "His Highness," an_ointing to the Grand Duke who with his high shoulders and frowning brow_tood a hundred paces away from them in his helmet and Horse Guards' jacket, shouting something to a pale, white uniformed Austrian officer.
  • "But that's the Grand Duke, and I want the commander in chief or the Emperor,"
  • said Rostov, and was about to spur his horse.
  • "Count! Count!" shouted Berg who ran up from the other side as eager as Boris.
  • "Count! I am wounded in my right hand" (and he showed his bleeding hand with _andkerchief tied round it) "and I remained at the front. I held my sword i_y left hand, Count. All our family—the von Bergs—have been knights!"
  • He said something more, but Rostov did not wait to hear it and rode away.
  • Having passed the Guards and traversed an empty space, Rostov, to avoid agai_etting in front of the first line as he had done when the Horse Guard_harged, followed the line of reserves, going far round the place where th_ottest musket fire and cannonade were heard. Suddenly he heard musket fir_uite close in front of him and behind our troops, where he could never hav_xpected the enemy to be.
  • "What can it be?" he thought. "The enemy in the rear of our army? Impossible!"
  • And suddenly he was seized by a panic of fear for himself and for the issue o_he whole battle. "But be that what it may," he reflected, "there is no ridin_ound it now. I must look for the commander in chief here, and if all is los_t is for me to perish with the rest."
  • The foreboding of evil that had suddenly come over Rostov was more and mor_onfirmed the farther he rode into the region behind the village of Pratzen, which was full of troops of all kinds.
  • "What does it mean? What is it? Whom are they firing at? Who is firing?"
  • Rostov kept asking as he came up to Russian and Austrian soldiers running i_onfused crowds across his path.
  • "The devil knows! They've killed everybody! It's all up now!" he was told i_ussian, German, and Czech by the crowd of fugitives who understood what wa_appening as little as he did.
  • "Kill the Germans!" shouted one.
  • "May the devil take them—the traitors!"
  • "Zum Henker diese Russen!"[[41]](footnotes.xml#footnote_41) muttered a German.
  • Several wounded men passed along the road, and words of abuse, screams, an_roans mingled in a general hubbub, then the firing died down. Rostov learne_ater that Russian and Austrian soldiers had been firing at one another. "M_od! What does it all mean?" thought he. "And here, where at any moment th_mperor may see them… . But no, these must be only a handful of scoundrels. I_ill soon be over, it can't be that, it can't be! Only to get past the_uicker, quicker!" The idea of defeat and flight could not enter Rostov'_ead. Though he saw French cannon and French troops on the Pratzen Height_ust where he had been ordered to look for the commander in chief, he coul_ot, did not wish to, believe that.